Evelyn Lane Sanders, President & CEO June 1, 2023
Over 15 million Americans are estimated to be providing informal care for a family member with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. Additionally, many work as paid caregivers for their partners or other family members.
Caring for a loved one is rewarding but can also be physically, emotionally, and cognitively demanding. Caregiving is an ongoing responsibility that requires 24/7 attention throughout the year. As a result, caregivers who look after another person may lack time to relax and experience fatigue, feel isolation, and experience anxiety, all of which contribute to stress and caregiver burnout.
The Challenges of Caregiving
Caregiving is difficult because of its physical, cognitive, organizational, and emotional demands. Caring for someone involves devoting time, being flexible, and making sacrifices. Caregivers typically confront a variety of challenges, including the following:
Witnessing the Decline of a Loved One
Caregivers typically assist and support family members with disabilities, chronical illnesses, mental health issues, injuries, who are elderly parents, or are terminally ill. This can make caregiving challenging because you may observe a decline in your loved one's condition, behavior, personality, reasoning, and mood. Caregiving often asks that you observe these changes objectively or stoically.
Managing Mood Swings and Aggression
Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia might cause or exacerbate existing mood swings, depression, aggression, and anger issues. For example, people with dementia often go through mood swings and feel overwhelmed, confused, or lonely, making them angry or aggressive.
Managing mood swings and irritability in dementia patients can be incredibly challenging. In order to reduce or eliminate the triggers that cause a dementia patient’s mood swings and anger, it is important to understand the various physical, emotional, and cognitive factors that impact the patient.
As a caregiver providing round-the-clock care for another person, you may miss signs of stress overload that indicate you have done too much. You may suffer from caregiver stress and burnout if you often feel sad and hopeless, experience irritability, moodiness, anger, sleep problems, appetite changes, excessive worry, and have problems concentrating. Consider taking a break. Consult your health care practitioner if you experience any of or most caregiver stress symptoms for an extended period.
The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers
As a caregiver, you may engage in various daily responsibilities such as monitoring and providing general care, food preparation, helping with personal care, assisting with mobility and transportation, organizing the person's home, and providing emotional support. Unfortunately, the endless list of duties may overwhelm you and cause you to overlook your needs. .
Caregiving can have a negative impact on your mood, health, relationships, and productivity, regardless of how close or strong your relationship with the person in your care may be. To minimize stress related to a caregiver's role and prevent burnout, it is necessary to prioritize self-care and take a break from caregiving duties.
Caregivers Need a Break
As June marks the official start of summer, many families and adults are planning vacations, family reunions, or simply taking time to relax and recharge. Even though you may know that, as a caregiver, you need respite and an opportunity to rejuvenate, you may experience feelings of guilt even when considering the idea of taking a break and putting your needs first.
However, you should be aware that there is no need or room for guilt in taking a break from your caring responsibilities. Taking time for yourself allows you to recharge, work through your emotions, relax, and avoid stress, depression, and other mental, emotional, and physical challenges that you may face as a caregiver.
There are some resources and strategies that can provide respite while ensuring the person under your care gets the necessary assistance.
Self-Care Strategies to Relieve Caregiver Stress
Caregivers may experience caregiver burnout when they become so focused on the needs of the person in their care that they disregard their well-being. So, here are some things you can do on your own to protect your physical and mental health.
You can only do so much as a caregiver. Give yourself permission not to feel responsible for the needs and feelings of others.
Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation
Regular mindfulness and relaxation exercises can help distract negative thoughts, improve your mood and increase optimism, boost resilience and focus, and improve your relationships with others and loved one. Explore some of the apps such as Calm, Headspace, or Medito that aid in the practice of mindfulness and relaxation.
Keep Up Your Exercise Routine
Staying physically active can help clear your thoughts, boost your mood, and increase your energy levels.
A well-balanced meal rich in vitamins, fiber, healthy fats, and minerals will help keep your intellect bright, your mood upbeat, and your body healthy.
Resources for Caregiver Stress Relief
There are other resources to help manage the recipient's needs without overwhelming yourself. For example, services such as respite and in-home care might help.
In-Home Caregivers Respite Care
Ask the respite care team to assist you so you can go on vacation or take a short break. Respite care refers to the temporary care provided to individuals who require assistance, allowing their primary caregivers to take a brief break from their responsibilities. Another caregiver oversees the individual who needs care during this time.
One option is having your loved one stay at an approved facility. This can give you a much-needed break to relax for a few hours, a day, or even a few days. In addition, respite care allows caregivers to work or handle personal business, deal with emergencies, and prevent burnout and emotional breakdown. It also provides care alternatives in case of illness, injury, or death.
Assistance from other family members can be invaluable. Request that a family member take over caring tasks from time to time so that you can recharge, rest, clear your mind, and enjoy hobbies, sports, or other things you like. Consider creating a schedule of family support times that ensure that the primary caregiver has regular periods of relief.
Support Groups and Counseling
You may require emotional assistance as a caregiver. Talking with someone who understands and supports your efforts may be beneficial, so consider joining a support group for caregivers.
Finally, seeking help from a professional mental health provider can help you overcome caregiver guilt, develop coping mechanisms, and learn practical self-care strategies to prevent stress and burnout.
Self-care is an essential component of caregiving. In order to adequately care for others, you must care for yourself.